Steve McLendon pushed, literally and figuratively, by Maurkice Pouncey

Jared Wickerham

In a division of outstanding interior defensive linemen, nose tackle Steve McLendon and center Maurkice Pouncey prepare for what looks to be some outstanding competition within the AFC North by pushing each other in training camp.

Iron sharpens iron. Competition makes players better.

In a division with outstanding defensive tackles - Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, Baltimore's Haloti Ngata and Cleveland's Phil Taylor - the importance of a team's center has reached critical mass in the AFC North.

The Steelers benefit with the ability and experience of Maurkice Pouncey on game day. But perhaps Pouncey's real long-term value is in preparing NT Steve McLendon for what awaits in his first year as a starter.

Tribune Review reporter Ralph N. Paulk discusses the Steelers' depth at nose tackle in a feature in Saturday's edition, highlighting the fact McLendon goes against Pouncey each day in practice.

"I'm going against one of the best centers in the league," McLendon said. "It's a constant battle between me and Pouncey. We are making each other better every day."

It's a wonder who will benefit more from elevated practice competition; Pouncey, who faces the beasts each team has, or McLendon, who lacks the experience but also doesn't have to face the same level of competition Pouncey does (although Cleveland's Alex Mack is one of the best centers in the game).

It's an interesting comparison, as well. While McLendon can't be mentioned in the same breath as Atkins - arguably the best interior defensive lineman in football - or Ngata - when healthy, a more-than-viable comparable to Atkins - constant full-bore repetition against Pouncey will make him a better player. Same for Pouncey, who will get plenty of quickness and athleticism from each divisional opponents' skilled anchor lineman.

If they are going to rise above their divisional competition, they'll have to beat each other first. And that will give them confidence against an outstanding division.

More from Behind the Steel Curtain:

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker